Trade Post: Batman Cacophony

Written by Kevin Smith, drawn by Walt Flanagan
Collects Batman: Cacophony #1-3
I’ve gone on record as a big fan of both Kevin Smith and the podcast of his friends Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson, so it might seem like the comic Smith and Flanagan created together starring one of my favorite fiction comics would be a home run, right? Well, not so much.

The first time around when this book came out in issues, I was still at Wizard and read the first one or two issues. The problem I’ve found with Smith’s comics is that they’re wordy as hell and even if the dialogue is fantastic it can feel like trudging through the best marsh with your eyes. That’s what I realized the last time I tried to go back and read his Daredevil run again. Man, there’s a lot of words on that page. Cacophony doesn’t suffer from that too much because, as Smith reveals in his intro to the collection, he read a blog post someone did that pointed out how uncharacteristically verbose and melodramatic Batman came off in the first issue. Smith read this, agreed and went back and tightened up Batman’s words both spoken and thought, which was really necessary (you can read the original script to #3 in the back of the book along with reprints of the variant covers).

The other reason I stopped reading the book back then was that I couldn’t figure out where it fit in with continuity, a problem that I’m embarrassed to say has put me off of many a comic. And, hey, it doesn’t really matter, a good story is a good story and this is a good story. It’s not great by any means as the Smith-created villain Onomatopoeia breaks the Joker out of Arkham and Batman has to deal with both madmen. I’m actually kind of surprised this was just a three issue mini instead of being drawn out into six issues, but instead kept to a number of issues that actually serves the story and still makes a pretty good trade thanks to all the extras. Sure there’s the off color sex stuff like Joker dropping his pants and offering his butt virginity to Onomatopoeia, but what really made this a worthwhile story for me was the conversation at the end between Batman and a heavily medicated Joker who Batman saved from death. I’m used to Batman wondering whether he should kill Joker or let him die, but I dug them talking and Joker telling Batman that he’s crazy because Batman’s in the world. Bats doesn’t say it, but you know it kills him. I’m sure this conversation has happened before and I’ve read it, but this one gets bonus points for referencing Gran Morrison’s  JLA story when Martian Manhunter jumps into Joker’s brain (so, continuity-wise, it takes place after that).

The writing’s fun and solid for the most part, but one of the big questions about the book has to focus on the quality of Flanagan’s artwork. I dug it. It’s not the best, most breathtaking artwork you’ve ever seen, but it’s solid and dynamic. Smith addresses the accusations of nepotism in the intro by saying that Flanagan got him into comics, so without him Smith’s comic career would probably not exist and possibly his movies. I say good on him for bringing his friend along for a wild ride and it’s not like Flanagan’s some scrub, he’s got chops, so it’s cool. The pair’s working on Batman: Widening Gyre now (I think) which I wasn’t curious about before but am more so now. I’ll give it a whirl once it’s all out in trade.

Preferred Podcasts: Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave!

I’ve talked about my love of Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast podcast which is basically just a recording of two dudes shooting the shit, sometimes on the road. Well, Smith seems to be a pretty big fan of the format and has been spreading the love, creating a mini-network of his own, giving his friends a platform to talk and tell stories. My personal favorite spin-off of the bunch has been Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave starring Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson, two long-time friends of Smith’s who have also played the characters of Walt the Fanboy and Steve-Dave, a couple of comic geeks.

It should be said that I probably wouldn’t have started listening to Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave if the Kevin Smith connection wasn’t there, but I will say that I’ve stuck around for 19 episodes because I like hearing these dudes, joined by Brian Quinn, talk, tell stories about their past and talk about everything from scholarships and comics to flea markets and tour buses. Here’s a brief clip from their first live show. The visuals are fine but the sounds gets NSFW at the end, so consider yourself warned.

That’s probably not the best representation of the show, but considering how filthy it is towards the end, it kind of is. The most recent episode featured Dave Wyndorf, the lead singer of Monster Magnet, hanging out just because he knows Walt and Bryan (and Kevin Smith too) from way back and shops at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, the comic shop that Smith owns and Flanagan manages. They talk about comics on the iPad, how lossy music can be, tour bus insanity and a variety of other subjects.

The podcast probably isn’t for everyone, but I love listening to it. Unlike most of the other shows I listen to, the guys don’t seem concerned with limiting their time. Take the Wyndorf episode for example, it lasted two and a half hours. That might be too long for some folks, especially considering it’s just four dudes talking and laughing, but there’s something about listening to people who have known each other so long telling stories that I can enjoy regardless of who the people are. Have you ever gone to a party filled with people you either don’t know or have heard of? You find yourself in a group of them. Conversation is had and stories are told. Sometimes in that situation you’re completely lost because one person will say something like “Hey remember that time at the lake?” and everyone laughs and nods and you’re left in the dark. That’s not what listening to Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave is like. It’s more like those people are really great story tellers and want to make sure you understand what they’re talking about and giving backstory. What makes it even better is the fact that the people talking are somewhat famous and telling stories about a person I’m a big fan of.